TWO of Derry’s top amateur boxing talents face the biggest tests of their career so far at the National Elite Boxing Championships this weekend.
Ulster light flyweight champion, Blaine Dobbins takes on two-time Olympic bronze medalist Paddy Barnes in the 49kgs semi-final tonight at the National Stadium, Dublin.
And Oakleaf ABC light-heavyweight, Sean McGlinchey will meet Joe Ward (Moate) in tomorrow’s last four bout.
Both Barnes and Ward are ranked in the top 10 in the world by AIBA in their respective weight classes and will provide a major test for the Derry boys.
Ballymagroarty lad, Dobbins (22) who fights out of St Joseph’s ABC, knows he faces a big step up in class when he goes toe-to-toe against Belfast man, Barnes.
And yet he’s confident he can put in an impressive showing and shock the attendance with victory in his semi-final bout tonight.
“It’s a big occasion for me and for Derry I suppose,” said Dobbins. “So it’s great for the city that we have someone boxing against an Olympic champion at an All-Ireland tournament.
“It’s great for myself and if I get to the final it will be a massive achievement,” he added.
Dobbins has shared a ring with Barnes before in a sparring session in Dublin and he feels he’s devised a plan to defeat the West Belfast man, who he believes, may become complacent.
“I’ll be nervous getting into the ring but I can’t let that bother me,” he said. “This is my first time in an All-Ireland senior semi-final so it’s a big fight for me.
“I know what he’s all about and I know exactly what to expect from him because I’ve been in the ring with him before and that’s what I’m trying to work at in training.
“I’ve sparred him before last year in Dublin,” he explained. “It’s a big, big fight for me but I’m feeling good. I’m feeling fit and I’m going to just try and box and move and hope for the best. I have to hit and move as I can’t afford to stand there and let him hit me.”
Both Dobbins and McGlinchey have high hopes of representing N. Ireland in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this Summer.
And with members of the Ulster Boxing Council who are selecting the Commonwealth team, in attendance this weekend, both fighters are fully aware they need to impress.
“My performance is the key,” added Dobbins. “I’ve got to impress because if I can perform well and possibly beat Paddy (Barnes) then I have my foot in the door with regards to the international stage.
“There will be plenty of support and all my friends are coming down to watch it. I’m 100 per cent confident I can win this fight and go on then and win the National title.
“It’s fantastic to be part of these Championships and to be among these boxers and it’s a great experience for my boxing career.
“I’m working towards the 2016 Olympics in Rio so I have to expect to be in the Irish team and train in Dublin. So if I do well in this tournament I can get my foot in the door.
“I’m still hoping to be part of the Commonwealth Games squad as well. I need a big performance but I’ve got to take it one step at a time and focus on Paddy Barnes at the minute.”
Boxing tonight and tomorrow night will get underway at 7 p.m. And the televised finals will be decided next weekend.
Tickets for both finals nights are now on sale from the National Stadium. Telephone Sally on (01) 4543525 at the National Stadium office.